If a person is convicted of a crime after a bench trial (by a judge) or a jury trial, he or she is typically entitled to appeal the conviction and to assert any number of pertinent arguments. One of the more common arguments on appeal concerns a lack of sufficient evidence to support the conviction. Appellants also may argue that the law or statute did not apply to their facts and circumstances. The appellate court is required to apply the appropriate standard of review to determine whether an appellant’s arguments have merit and warrant a reversal of the conviction. To be sure that your rights are adequately protected during a criminal case, from the point of arrest through any appeal, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
In a recent Maryland case, the court conducted a bench trial to determine whether the defendant was guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine, in addition to several other drug-related charges. Here, police officers assigned to a regional Narcotics Task Force executed a search and seizure warrant for the defendant’s residence. During the search of the premises, a Maryland State Trooper spoke with the defendant and asked him whether there was methamphetamine cooking on the premises. The defendant indicated that there was a bottle in the kitchen that should not be tightened, since it could blow up and cause a fire. According to the State Trooper, the defendant described how he learned to cook the drug and the actual process.
The search revealed assorted drug cooking paraphernalia. The State presented further evidence, including a forensic examiner and chemist with the Maryland State Police, as well as an expert in the identification of methamphetamine and its production and manufacture. The court found the defendant guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine, as well as other drug-related offenses. The defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient to convict him of manufacturing the drug because the evidence only proved that he was cooking the substance for his own personal use, which he alleged is not a crime under the statute.
The court of appeals characterized the issue on appeal as one of statutory interpretation, rather than sufficiency of evidence. The court reviewed Section 5-603, which essentially makes it a crime to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance (“CDS”). In doing so, the court looked at the following statutory definition of “manufacture” under Section 5-101: “to produce, prepare, propagate, compound, convert, or process a controlled dangerous substance.” But the same law states (in pertinent part) that such “manufacture” does not include the preparation of a CDS by an individual for his or her own use.
The defendant argued that he was cooking the methamphetamine for his own personal use and without any intent to distribute the substance. The State responded by arguing that the personal use exception did not apply to the production of a CDS and therefore does not apply to the defendant’s conduct. The court conducted a thorough review of the statute’s language and concluded that it is unlawful under Section 5-603 to produce or make methamphetamine, even if an individual creates it for his or her own personal use. Therefore, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to have concluded that the defendant was guilty of manufacturing the substance.
In a criminal case like this, when the outcome rests on the interpretation and application of a particular statute, it is extremely important that you know and understand the laws affecting your case. Seeking the counsel of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney is one of the most effective ways to approach any criminal investigation. If you are arrested or charged with a crime, our office will work diligently to develop the best strategy to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
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